Surely you recall the furor in 2011 with which the first season of the Pendleton Portland Collection was greeted, kicking off a great many debates centered around the use of traditional Native American jacquards in clothing largely consumed by upwardly mobile white hipsters. (If you didn't catch it the first time, this article is an excellent summation of the issue.) The Portland Collection launched well after Navajo designs had already been incorporated onto everything from cigarette cases to thong underwear in stores like Urban Outfitters, but its prominence and price point made it the ultimate example. A year later, and the second collection is just beginning to arrive at stores like Frances May, which featured it at last night's Fashion's Night Out festivities, Shop Adorn, Tilde, and Blake, which proudly announced in an email newsletter that they "will have the LARGEST selection of the collection in the entire UNITED STATES (maybe the world)."
It's understandable that these stores are excited; last year's styles flew off the racks at an alarming speed. But with less controversy on the second go around (and a step back from Native American references), this year the designs will need even more to speak for themselves.
Conscious or not, I think dialing back the trade blanket vibe was a smart move. It will, and should always be an essential part of Pendleton's identity, but the brand has evolved well beyond that, and as the most fashion forward component of their product, the Portland Collection should embody that progression. Here, even the loudest example is muted, more of a graphic study than anything:
The majority of the collection features cool blues, orange reds, plaid, woven stripes, and a whole lot of solids and neutrals. My favorite piece in the whole collection might be this cozy double breasted sweater with a jolt of abstract color that sets it apart.
This collection also features the resurrection of a striped fabric found in the company archives. I don't know if stripes will ever go out of style, and the meticulous weaving here enriches a relatively simple pattern. If forking over for a solid investment piece, it's tempting to go the safe route and avoid prints altogether, but this is an example of something I think of as "keeper stripes."
Double breasted cardigans not withstanding, if you were to get just one piece from this collection, I would recommend it be one of the many excellent, warm, solid jackets. The men's designs are especially strong:
The dolman sleeved version in black and white would be my pick for women:
Overall I prefer this collection to the last. It's more subtle, and accessible to people like me who never got comfortable wearing more literal Native American references. I hope this is as well received as F/W '11, because I like where this is going. And, as was underscored at Tuesday night's dinner discussion with Overdressed author Elizabeth Cline, Pendleton's commitment to producing its own fabrics, using American manufacturing for this collection, and giving young Portland designers the benefit of the brand's international reach is something we should all be proud of.
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